Poetry, entertainment, censorship

The Philosophy of Art & Aesthetics.

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Poetry, entertainment, censorship

Post by perezoso » January 28th, 2005, 1:09 pm

From Book X of the Republic: 42. And now since we have reverted to the subject of poetry, let this our defense serve to show the reasonableness of our former judgment in sending away out of our State an art having the tendencies which we have described; for reason constrained us. But that she may impute to us any harshness or want of politeness, let us tell her that there is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry; of which there are many proofs, such as the saying of 'the yelping hound howling at her lord,' or of one 'mighty in the vain talk of fools,' and 'the mob of sages circumventing Zeus,' and the 'subtle thinkers who are beggars after all'; and there are innumerable other signs of ancient enmity between them.

In Plato's ideal state, lyric poetry-- which is the product not of reason and logic, but of inspiration and emotion--shall be banned. This section is often criticized and attacked as an early example of state censorship; it also demonstrates, however, that the greeks perceived a clear distinction between the aesthetic and logical approaches to "truth".

Without getting longwinded or too theoretical, I think this distinction--as well as the argument for banning or controlling artistic and poetic creation--still holds. The latest brain fart spewed on some bubblegum star or rapper's CD is not near to Newtonian (or Einsteinian) constants, nor even to a syllogism. Poetry and really literature as a whole are anecdotally true at best and not on the same level as physical or mathematical laws. Literature may have psychological and occasionally historical relevance, yet it is not proof of any psychological theory or concept or the historical record itself. It's qualitative, not quantitative. Most students know far more about Hamlet, an imaginary "construct," than they do about English (or Danish) history of the 16th century, and Shakespeare's abiding presence ( really somewhat sinister) demonstrates how the literary myth overpowers the historical and economic reality of the Tudorian monarchy. Shakespeare's play Hamlet is, however rhetorically marvelous, not the historical record, nor does it contain any necessarily true statements regarding politics, psychology, or the physical world. Entertainment, much lower than classic poetry, is far less concerned with/addressed to any sort of logical or scientific truth.

Though many so-called liberals protest any forms of censorship, there may be decent grounds for the Chinese authorities controlling the spread of discos and pop culture in their country; and though a complete banning of western entertainment in the islamic countries may seem wrong--it is--controlling the spread of the religion of celebrity and instant gratifcation may not be the worst thing a country can do. Citizens in Morocco or China or Saudi Arabia should be able to read Shelley or Hemingway, listen to Bartok or Ellington or Metheny, I think, but do they need to have their kids listening to gangsta rap and Britanny Spears and death metal or reading Hustler? I think not. But the danger is letting religious zealots be the Ministers of Information, instead of Platos.

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Post by e_dog » January 28th, 2005, 10:11 pm

which has more socially relevant content for todays society: Hemingway or Tupac. I say Tupac. Which has more timeless truth of practical value Shakespeare or the minutiae of Danish history? probably Shakespeare.

which is more dangerous to the survival of the human species? lyric poesy or modern physics? i say, ban Einstein before you ban Eisenstein. Plato's a hypocrite: he wrote poetry before being converted to the religion of Socrates, and when all is said and done, Plato's dialogue simply making him a playright with relatively boring plots (except for the trial n death o Socrates) and a heavy emphasis on dialogue with a not so dry style of argumentation.

the argument for censorship, btw, doesn't "hold" with a mere caveat expressing the dismay that we cannot have wise philosopher-kings. rather, because any actual censors are flawed humans, there can be no fair and nonideological censorship scheme and, therefore, the argument for censorship, like that for 'benign' dictatorship, does NOT hold any water. free speech is always best, the cure for pop culture is not to suppress it but to promote a critical (counter)culture. more speech, not less. that may be "liberal" but liberal means "free" which is better than being in chains, isn't it?
I don't think 'Therefore, I am.' Therefore, I am.


Post by perezoso » January 30th, 2005, 1:29 pm

Which has more timeless truth of practical value Shakespeare or the minutiae of Danish history? probably Shakespeare
I disagree. Though I will spare you any long-winded treatises I feel the political history of Shakespeare's own time--say of the Tudors--is relevant and indeed "true" while the literature is merely predicated on the history. The known facts of Henry VIII, the real king, are quite different than how shakespeare presents him: Hank VIII was, in some sense, a brutal sadistic dictator. Other history plays -Richard II, II, Henry IV, V. etc.----make gross distortions of historical facts. My view is that Shakespeare, with few exceptions ( Richard III) always makes the nobles look good--when they were of course often corrupt murderous pigs. The plays are usually arguing for the monarchy, if not the Church as well...

My point is thus more pedagogical: the historical facts should be taught, and the literature only in relation to the history, and the literature will then be seen--emphatically, the English and French ancien regime lit.--to be usually apologetics for the monarchist and clerical status quo.

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